Understanding What Works in Victim Services
Conducting a Multiphase Evaluation of the VictimConnect Resource Center
Although crime rates fell in recent decades, millions of Americans experience victimization every year, which can cause physical injuries, pain, and trauma; property, job, and home loss; and even death. Some victims face immediate crises, whereas others face short-term, long-term, and even intergenerational consequences. Victimization also frequently impacts victims’ families, friends, and communities of support. Moreover, certain groups have historically experienced increased risk of victimization, including people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and older adults. In addition, many victims—especially those from marginalized groups—face significant barriers to services.
Launched in 2015 by the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), the VictimConnect Resource Center was the nation’s first (and is still its only) technology-based resource center to offer comprehensive helpline services to victims of all types of crime and their loved ones. Visitors can access information, emotional support, and referrals through four technological channels that preserve victims’ confidentiality: softphone (anonymous internet-based phone calls), online chat, text messaging, and the website.
Given its scope, innovation, and relatively recent founding, VictimConnect is at the prime stage for building research capacity, focusing on implementation fidelity, and integrating other evaluation components. Victim resource centers and service providers across the country can particularly benefit from information about how online technologies can improve responses to crime victims and make service approaches more effective.
In 2019, with funding from the National Institute of Justice, the Urban Institute launched a multiphase evaluation of VictimConnect in partnership with NCVC to understand its conceptual model and operations, what data were being collected, and the potential for rigorous outcome evaluation. The overarching goals for the evaluation are to determine the extent to which VictimConnect does the following:
- increases victims’ access to high-quality services
- improves delivery of services that meet victims’ needs
- protects victims’ rights and confidentiality
- makes technology-based services more efficient
The phases include a formative evaluation (conducted in 2019 and 2020) and a planned, comprehensive implementation evaluation and rigorous outcome evaluation. During the formative evaluation, Urban’s research team collaborated with VictimConnect staff to conduct an evaluability assessment, engage in activities to build research capacity, and plan the research design and instruments for further evaluation. If funded, we anticipate that the next phases will begin in 2022.